‘Green’ Credit Cards Expand But Not Yet Second Nature for Consumers

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Green credit cards are a growing trend as consumers are seeking companies and brands “put people and planet ahead of a single-minded focus on profits at any cost.”

According to Green America, the non-profit that launched in 1982 as “Co-op America” until rebranding in 2009, “megabanks collect $60 billion per year in transaction charges.”

“The good news is that the rise of ‘green’ credit cards with low fees, good rates, and extra features such as travel perks means that consumer fed up with megabank abuses now have real choices,” stated Green America Corporate Responsibility Division Director Todd Larsen.

“Changing to a responsible, green credit card is easy. We encourage concerned consumers to take the time now to learn how to put a ‘green’ credit card in their wallet or purse.” And more and more of them are switching, compelling financial institutions to review their products with a mind to reflecting their corporate citizenship commitments.[more]

Green America notes a range of credit cards that meet its criteria for environmental sustainability and social and economic justice such as:

One PacificCoast Bank Visa Platinum, which supports the mission to lift up communities and preserve the environment in the Pacific Northwest, offers a low variable APR, no annual fee and Scorecard Reward Points for travel and merchandise.

• One PacificCoast also offers a Green America Visa, which supports the nonprofit Green America’s green-economy programs with a portion of every purchase going toward Green America’s work to build fair trade systems, advance clean energy, remove GMOs from our food supply, and support green businesses. Includes reward points for travel and merchandise.

Southern Bancorp Visa focuses on select areas of Arkansas and Mississippi, offering one point for every net $1 spent, and an automatic 25% bonus on all points earned each month.

While greener options proliferate, it’s still a nascent space. According to a recent CardRatings.com survey, as few as one in 100 US credit card users redeem rewards points for charitable donations.

Changing that behavior and leveraging those dollars for good is getting easier as banks scramble to keep up with changing consumer perceptions about business and sustainability.

CardRating’s choices include:

• Discover’s biodegradable credit card, America’s first, launched in 2008 with the goal of eliminating millions of pounds of paper from landfills each year; cardholders could also earmark CashBack Bonus rewards for automatic donations to charities.

The Nature Conservancy Card from Bank of America, a partnership that spans more than two decades, issues credit cards manufactured from at least 55 percent recycled material, and new accounts receive a $100 cash rewards bonus after the first $500 in purchases in the first 90 days, for which Bank of America will contribute an additional $100 to The Nature Conservancy while charging no annual fee.

ReDirect Guide Visa from Beneficial State Bank (formerly One PacificCoast Bank) and Sustainable Travel International, offers discounts at green businesses and makes automatic cash donations that pay for carbon offsets, tracking sustainable businesses.

Sustain:Green just launched a MasterCard that rewards users with carbon offset credits, reducing users’ individual carbon footprints while funding the Mata No Peito rainforest preservation project in Brazil.

“After recycling, reusable grocery bags, and turning down the thermostat, the options most people have to reduce their carbon footprint usually fall into three categories, too difficult, too expensive, or not possible,” commented Sustain:Green CEO Arthur Newman to Triple Pundit.

“Just by using our card for purchases they would make anyway, consumers can shrink their carbon footprint for free, every day, while also helping to preserve rainforests critical to combating climate change. We hope they will use the card in conjunction with other carbon reduction lifestyle changes, such as fuel efficient transportation choices.”

Taking one step further into personal accountability, an online dashboard lets users’ track their carbon offset credits and calculate their carbon footprint.

As brand marketers know all too well, the single most potent tool each consumer has remains their voice and their choices.

As Larsen puts it, “More and more people are seeing that if you bank and have a credit card with financial institutions that don’t share your values, you’re actually using your money in a way that doesn’t support the world you want to live in.” 

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